LEARN DC PCS most likely not to be approved by charter board

Last Monday evening the DC Public Charter School Board considered the application of LEARN DC PCS to open a Pre-Kindergarten three to eighth grade school on the grounds of Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling (JBAB). As you recall, this charter management organization was selected by the Parent Operator Selection Team (POST), a group of four military and four Ward 8 parents, through a request for proposal to submit an application to open the new school. As I detailed previously, the POST was aided by an advisory board that included Friends of Choice in Urban Schools (FOCUS), Parents Amplifying Voices in Education (PAVE) and other community members, and it received financial support from Education Forward. The charter would begin operating during the 2021-to-2022 school year and grow to teach 712 pupils. In addition, the AppleTree Institute would be contracted to manage Pre-Kindergarten three and four.

From the minute the public hearing began, you could tell that the PCSB was skeptical of the bid. I want to be careful here. It was absolutely clear from the testimony of many on this night, especially that of Maya Martin, the founder and executive director of PAVE who would become the school’s board chair, that the POST did some extraordinary work over the past twelve months. It met two to three hours every other Saturday to learn about the educational landscape in the city, and through guest lectures by groups such as the PCSB and EdOps, to understand the national and local charter movement. It was this team that eventually settled on LEARN to open the charter that would offer an admission preference of up to half of its enrollment to military families.

However, here is where the process may not have been ideal. It was revealed at this session that the POST received responses to its RFP from three local charters and two national ones. Through a rubric analysis one local group was eliminated. Then following a SWAT review LEARN became the clear choice. Here we have the POST becoming almost a substitute to the charter board for making a school selection. Perhaps it would have been preferable to ask that all interested parties submit applications to the PCSB and then let this body decide which one gets to open. This is how it was done when a replacement for Options PCS was sought. After all, approving new schools is part of its standard operating procedures.

But I digress. The night began on a high note as representatives of LEARN DC and the LEARN Charter School Network detailed it record of having 95 percent of its students graduate high school and 83 percent admitted to college. The CMO consists of ten campuses in Chicago teaching over 4,200 students. 94 percent of its students qualify for free or reduced priced meals. Two of its schools serve children of military families.

One exciting aspect of this charter that goes up to the eighth grade is that it back fills open slots throughout the academic year and through middle school.

Mr. Gregory White, LEARN president and chief executive officer, provided numerous uplifting anecdotes about the exciting efforts of this CMO on behalf of its students.

Eventually, questions and comments from the board began to demonstrate their concerns around the charter. Saba Bireda, the PCSB’s vice chair, brought up high student suspension rates at LEARN 8, the network’s middle school. Scott Pearson, the PCSB’s executive director, commented that he visited LEARN 6 and a few of the other campuses and stated that he saw some excellent teaching and some that was mediocre. He added that other members of his group had visited all ten schools and reported back that some were better than others. One leader informed Mr. Pearson that his site was a turnaround school.

Mr. Pearson also related that the board has looked at a lot of test results and that the NWEA Map test shows that at almost half of LEARN’s schools most of the results are below average, meaning that fifty percent of students are not meeting their expected growth in math.

Another area of uneasiness with this application revolves around the proposed governance structure of the school. LEARN DC would become part of the LEARN Network, and, according to the LEARN DC application, the network would become the sole member of LEARN DC. Under this arrangement the CMO would have the following powers:

  • To approve material amendments to LEARN DC’s Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws;
  • To appoint and remove directors;
  • To approve the merger, consolidation, or affiliation of the corporation with another corporation, organization or program or the dissolution of the corporation; and
  • To approve the assumption or creation of any indebtedness of the corporation, except in the ordinary course of business of the corporation.

In other words, although the representatives from LEARN stated that the Washington, D.C. board of directors would be responsible for the success of the school, much of the authority would belong to those residing outside of the District of Columbia.

Mr. Cruz, the PCSB chair, concluded the conversation by observing that national charter school networks do not have a great track record here in the nation’s capital. Of course, with the exception of KIPP DC PCS, he is unfortunately absolutely correct. Academic weaknesses have been noted at Democracy Prep PCS, Harmony PCS, and Somerset Prep PCS. Basis PCS has been criticized for its lower-than-expected enrollment of special education and low-income students.

I have to admit that I was intrigued by the information that a couple of our town’s charters had replied to the POST RFP. In my mind, considering the deep complexities of public education in the nation’s capital, it would be best for our community and those residing at JBAB to select one of these schools.

The PCSB will vote on the LEARN DC application at its November meeting.

Sad news revealed about Washington D.C.’s traditional schools

Saturday was not a good day regarding the management of the traditional school system in the nation’s capital that educates 48,144 children.  First, a report by D.C.’s Inspector General looking into the preferential placement of former Chancellor Antwan Wilson’s daughter found that no one involved in this mess has taken responsibility for moving his child away from the Duke Ellington School of the Arts and enrolling her in Wilson High School; skirting the My School DC Lottery and obtaining admission notwithstanding a wait list of over 600 students.  Asked about the findings of the review,  Mayor Muriel Bowser again rejected that she knew anything about the actions of the officials she oversaw despite the fact that she was apparently told about the relocation by the Chancellor and Deputy Mayor for Education Jennie Niles.  Mr. Wilson has stated on multiple occasions that he referred the issue of his child’s unhappiness at attending Duke Ellington to his wife.  Ms. Niles claims that she had delegated the matter to Jane Spence, the Deputy Chief of Secondary Schools.

According to the Washington Post story appearing over the weekend by Fenit Nirappil and Perry Stein, “the report portrays a scenario in which the two top school officials appeared to understand the political hazards of the transfer.  It concluded the two [Mr. Wilson and Ms. Niles] made some efforts to avoid giving the chancellor’s daughter preferential treatment, but ultimately their actions led to rules being bypassed.”

Mr. Wilson, Ms. Niles, and Ms. Spence all have lost their positions.  The Mayor, of course, continues in hers.

Next, the Post’s Perry Stein reports that of the 164 pupils that were last May accused of residency fraud in attending Duke Ellington, 95 of these cases have been dismissed.  The original claim involved approximately 30 percent of the student body.  Parents at the school immediately challenged this finding by the Office of the State Superintendent of Education and took the charge to court.  The legal proceedings forced OSSE to admit that it mishandled documentation of student D.C. residency at Ellington on two separate occasions over two weeks.  It appears that 69 of the 531 pupils that attend the school still have questions around whether they live in D.C.

The whole matter is embarrassing.  I understand that in numerous instances it is difficult to ascertain the location of student homes.  Many may not have permanent addresses.  But if you have been involved in D.C. schools for more than five minutes you understand that there are strict requirements around admission.

Both of these controversies severely dilute confidence that there is competency in the administration of this city’s schools.  Many are now calling for a weakening of Mayoral control.  Please add me to the list.

 

 

 

 

 

Washington D.C.’s Ingenuity Prep PCS may want to expand. It cannot

In my recent interview with Aaron Cuny, the co-founder and chief executive officer of Ingenuity Prep PCS, he related that “while the organization is approved to expand through the eighth grade, it aspires to eventually grow into a small Southeast D.C. network that will include several elementary schools, middle schools, and potentially even a high school.”  I’m sure that Mr. Cuny would like to serve many more than the 550 students it does today, so that it can lead other scholars to reach the superlative academic results this school is posting that were included in the article:

  • Ingenuity Prep’s students’ combined English Language Arts and Math scores ranked in the 74th percentile of all D.C. district and public charter schools, outperforming a range of higher-income schools across the city,
  • Students’ combined scores ranked 2nd of 36 schools in the Ward 8,
  • Of D.C. schools where the tested student population had an “at-risk” (or high-poverty) rate of 50% or greater, Ingenuity Prep’s students ranked near the top: 7th of 113 schools.
  • For the second year in a row, no school in the city with a higher “at-risk” (or high-poverty) rate had better combined English Language Arts and Math scores.
  • Students’ gains from the 2016-17 school year in English Language Arts ranked at the 92nd percentile of all district and public charter schools, and
  • Of new charter organizations opened by D.C.’s public charter school board in the past 10 years, Ingenuity Prep ranks in the top 10 and is the only such school located in Southeast D.C.

However, extremely unfortunately for the families in Ward 8 and the entire education community, this school would not be permitted by the DC Public Charter School Board to open another campus.  The reason for this is straightforward.  Ingenuity Prep is not yet ranked as a Tier 1 school on the PCSB’s Performance Management Framework.  Being a Tier 1 institution is the main criteria set by the charter board as qualifying for an enrollment ceiling increase.

Something is terribly wrong here.  No one could possibly argue that the students at Ingenuity Prep are not receiving an excellent education and are being prepared to excel at college and beyond.  As indicated above, their PARCC standardized test scores are second best in Anacostia, and for those serving kids living in poverty, they are seventh best in the city.

The situation we have here, which is frankly absurd, is that an applicant that wants to open a new school in the nation’s capital, that may have an unproven track record in this town, might have a better chance of filling additional classrooms than this charter.

Attorney Stephen Marcus has strenuously argued that there is an inherent bias to the PMF for those schools characterized by having a large population of at-risk students.  The charter board staff disagrees.  I’m not an authority in this area so I cannot say for sure who is right.  But the situation with Ingenuity Prep begs the question that has only one correct response.

Would an application for expansion by Ingenuity Prep be approved?

Exclusive interview with Aaron Cuny, co-founder and CEO Ingenuity Prep PCS

I had the great pleasure recently of sitting down with Aaron Cuny, the co-founder and chief executive officer of Ingenuity Prep PCS, a school that opened in 2013 with just over one hundred students in PreKindergarten three to Kindergarten. The school is located in Anacostia, in the southernmost school building in the nation’s capital, and so I wanted to know from Mr. Cuny how this particular location was selected. “Our belief from the beginning was that all D.C. families deserve accessible, quality school options,” the Ingenuity Prep CEO explained, “and for too many families, especially those in Wards 7 and 8, this opportunity does not exist. We felt a moral obligation to help build something that would give families another choice.” Around the time that Mr. Cuny and his co-founder, Will Stoetzer, the school’s chief operating officer, were writing their charter application, the Illinois Facility Fund study was released. The report analyzed, across 39 neighborhood clusters in Washington, D.C., the gap between the density of students in those neighborhood clusters and the supply of high performing schools. Mr. Cuny and Mr. Stoetzer identified the neighborhood where there was the greatest gap between the number of students and the number of quality school seats available to families.

Once the area was determined, Mr. Cuny and Mr. Stoetzer began connecting with local families by knocking on doors, attending neighborhood events, and standing outside the Giant grocery store on Alabama Avenue. Contrary to the divisiveness that sometimes informs our community’s debate about public charter schools, they found that parents were overwhelmingly hungry for a good school option and parents didn’t care whether that it came in the form of a traditional or charter school. They just wanted something better than what the city had previously provided.

With the help of Building Hope, Mr. Cuny and Mr. Stoetzer were able to secure space in the former PR Harris Educational Center, a site that it now shares with National Collegiate Preparatory Academy PCS, the University of the District of Columbia, and fire and emergency medical services. Back in 1997, the Washington Post’s Debbie Wilgoren explained the history of the structure:

“The building opened in 1976 with 2,300 youngsters, overflow from nearby schools. Originally called Friendship Educational Center, it was renamed for Patricia Roberts Harris, the late D.C. mayoral candidate and Carter administration appointee who was the first black woman to be a Cabinet secretary and U.S. ambassador.”

Mr. Cuny informed me that current Ward 8 D.C. Councilmember Trayon White, Sr. attended school here.

I asked Mr. Cuny how he came to open a charter school. “I started 18 years ago as a teacher in a district middle school in Oakland, California,” Mr. Cuny recalled. “Our school had among the worst outcomes in the state and was soon shut down. From the beginning though, I knew that our students were capable of so much more, and the school’s failure wasn’t a function of our kids’ capacity but rather the inability of the adults to fix the system and run a great institution. The curriculum wasn’t rigorous, the instruction wasn’t differentiated, and teachers received no coaching or feedback on their practice. From early on, I thought that one day I’d like to have a shot at trying to build something better, a place where the adults worked together more effectively to set kids up for success.”

After five years in Oakland, Mr. Cuny taught in private schools in Mexico for two years. The students there came from affluent families and Mr. Cuny came to an immediate observation. “The instruction at those private schools was far from great but those kids were going to be fine because of their privilege and the luxury of their upbringing. My kids back in Oakland didn’t have that advantage. Society had stacked the deck against them, and a great school with really great instruction was going to be an absolute necessity to open up opportunity for them. They simply couldn’t afford to sit in classrooms with teachers and instruction that was sub-par. ”

Eventually, with a desire to settle in a place with an emerging charter sector and a city committed to school reform, Mr. Cuny came to Washington, D.C.

Through New Leaders for New Schools, Mr. Cuny became a resident principal at DC Bilingual PCS. There he joined principal Wanda Perez and Daniela Anello, now its head of school. Mr. Cuny commented that the school’s efforts between 2009 and 2012 to significantly improve student achievement was rewarding, but he saw the lack of options that existed for other families around the city, and he wanted to do his part to positively change the situation. He remembered having dinner one evening with E.L. Haynes PCS founder Jennie Niles. “I was inspired by her story of creating the school but fairly intimidated at how overwhelming it seemed,” Mr. Cuny observed. He left that meal with the realization that he was not yet ready.

Then, in fall of 2011, Mr. Cuny and Mr. Stoetzer, a colleague at DC Bilingual, set out to build a new school, from the ground up. They began writing the charter, spending their days working at the charter and their evenings interacting with educators, community leaders, and families throughout the city. “We probably met with over a hundred people that fall listening, sharing ideas, gathering feedback. We wanted to innovate, but we also wanted to stand on the shoulders of some of the leading educators who had been doing great work in this city for years,” Mr Cuny reflected.

Now, with a mission of “preparing students to succeed in college and beyond as impactful civic leaders,” Ingenuity Prep is in its sixth term. “We’ve had lots of successes over these past years,” Mr. Cuny stated, “and we’ve learned some hard lessons as well.”

I then inquired of Mr. Cuny to tell me what makes him excited about the future of his school. He asserted, “More important than anything else, a successful school that does right by kids depends on great leaders and great teachers. Growth over these past years, with us now serving over 550 students, has meant we’ve had to bring on a lot of teachers who are new to the profession, and we’ve had consistent retention of leaders and teachers. Our apprentice teacher model, which leverages mentor teachers and coaching from experienced instructors, has helped us grow some really amazing teachers. Because of the strength of this model and pedagogical support, we have teachers who are much better in their second year than I was in my seventh year.”

Ingenuity Prep, which has added a new grade level each year since its opening, now serves students through fifth grade. While the organization is approved to expand through the eighth grade, it aspires to eventually grow into a small Southeast D.C. network that will include several elementary schools, middle schools, and potentially even a high school.

The school’s educational strategy is clearly working. On the 2018 PARCC Assessment, according to the school’s press release:

  • Ingenuity Prep’s students’ combined English Language Arts and Math scores ranked in the 74th percentile of all D.C. district and public charter schools, outperforming a range of higher-income schools across the city,
  • Students’ combined scores ranked 2nd of 36 schools in the Ward 8,
  • Of D.C. schools where the tested student population had an “at-risk” (or high-poverty) rate of 50% or greater, Ingenuity Prep’s students ranked near the top: 7th of 113 schools.
  • For the second year in a row, no school in the city with a higher “at-risk” (or high-poverty) rate had better combined English Language Arts and Math scores.
  • Students’ gains from the 2016-17 school year in English Language Arts ranked at the 92nd percentile of all district and public charter schools, and
  • Of new charter organizations opened by D.C.’s public charter school board in the past 10 years, Ingenuity Prep ranks in the top 10 and is the only such school located in Southeast D.C.

Ingenuity Prep was also recognized this past week by EmpowerK12 as being one of the top schools in the city for out-performing expectations, the second year in a row it’s received this recognition.

Despite academic outcomes that rank among the best in the city for high-at-risk-rate schools, the school is Tier 2 on the PCSB’s Performance Management Framework. Among the PMF metrics the school is looking to improve is attendance. “Adverse weather results in us taking a bigger hit in this area than other schools because if a three year old is standing outside waiting for a bus it is more difficult to get here than for a child who is driven,” Mr. Cuny pointed out. As opposed to the more centralized support of attendance the school has tried in the past, this year the school is looking to leverage teachers, those with the closest relationships with families, to address this challenge.

Mr. Cuny, however, is optimistic about the road ahead for Ingenuity Prep. He added, “Our students are already outperforming many of their higher income peers from across the city. No one in our organization is satisfied though. We’re committed to continuous improvement. In the coming years, our students will show that they can compete with the best in D.C.” Mr. Cuny concluded, “The work of running a school is really, really hard. It’s physically and emotionally taxing, in ways most folks who don’t work in schools don’t realize. We encounter tons of challenges on a daily basis, and we don’t always get it right. But I’m optimistic because of the people in our building. We have wonderful and hard-working kids, families who care deeply about the hopes and dreams of their children, and a staff that demonstrates a level of commitment that is truly inspiring. We believe deeply in our scholars, and that belief is going to carry Ingenuity Prep a long way.”

Washington Post editors miss the main point about public school reform

The editors of the Washington Post came out yesterday strongly against proposals by D.C. Councilmembers David Grosso and Mary Cheh which would divorce the Office of the State Superintendent of Education from strict Mayoral control.  I agree with the representatives, and have argued that having the Chancellor, Deputy Mayor for Education, and State Superintendent all under the authority of the Mayor inherently injects politics into the traditional schools.  Since the city’s chief executive needs votes to stay in office, the individual in this position will use the office to craft a view of the educational landscape that may not match reality.   Under the system currently in place in the nation’s capital regarding the public schools, it is predictable that a scandal would develop regarding a greatly inflated high school graduation rate.  Unfortunately, in this case, young children suffered because of a structure created by adults.

However, all of the recent controversies around diplomas, admission preference provided to the Chancellor, and residency fraud are not my main interest.  I’m trying to figure out how to quickly increase academic achievement for all of our kids, and especially those that are living in poverty, up to the rates seen by those who reside in our affluent neighborhoods.  Instead of PARCC scores in the teens or twenties I want them in the seventies.  Today.  So how do we get there?

I’m an extremely optimistic person but have to admit here that I don’t see a path forward that will lead our scholars to this endpoint, perhaps ever.  Don’t get me wrong.  There are plenty of great local charter schools that are closing the achievement gap.  They are doing this for hundreds of kids a year.  This is not what I’m talking about.  I want to change the world for the 91,537 students enrolled in all of our public schools.

To reach this state would take a complete rethinking about how we deliver education in this city.  It says much about what institutions are permitted to continue teaching our young people and expand, and which need to immediately close their doors.  Let’s be honest with each other this morning.  Without naming specific individuals because that may upset them, do you see any of our leaders across the traditional or charter school sectors making the argument for this type of transformation?  The answer is sadly no.

We need a Michael Bloomberg, Joel Klein, or Michelle Rhee to come to the rescue.  Someone who is willing to fight the fight despite the political bruises that will be received by those fiercely protecting the status quo.  A new hero that will sacrifice his or her time and energy for the betterment of our society.  An individual who will decide to show that it can be done.

Until this knight in shining armor comes along I’m willing to wait.  But I’m inpatient and now I’m pacing around the room.  I know we can do this, I really do.  The only question is when?

 

 

D.C. Mayor Bowser withdraws two nominations to the D.C. Public Charter School Board

A recent Twitter Post which now has been deleted led to the challenging to uncover news that Mayor Muriel Bowser had nominated Lyon Rosario, a Ward 8 resident, to replace Dr. Darren Woodruff on the DC Public Charter School Board.  Dr. Woodruff’s term ended last July.  Ms. Rosario’s volunteer service was scheduled to conclude on February 24, 2022.

This selection seemed a bit odd.  According to Ms. Rosario’s four page resume submitted with the written announcement of the nomination, she is currently serving as a Drug and Alcohol Program Manager for the United States Department of Transportation, Federal Transit Administration in the nation’s capital.  She has held this position since 2014.  While her Curriculum Vitae appears extremely impressive, it centers completely around work in the U.S. Department of Transportation.  For example, she received a 2006 Secretary Team Award for Hurricane Katrina Response.  Ms. Rosario has a Bachelor of Arts in sociology from Brandeis University.

The nomination was apparently made on June 22, 2018 and then on September 26th it was withdrawn.

Research on the Ms. Rosario nomination led to information that another candidate for the PCSB had been put forth and then cancelled by the Mayor.  Also on June 22nd, Ms. Lea Crusey was nominated to fill the seat of Don Soifer, who relocated to Nevada last year to become the president of Nevada Action for School Options.  Mr. Soifer is still included as being on the PCSB on the organization’s website, but then too is Dr. Woodruff.  Her term would have been co-terminus with Ms. Rosario’s.  Ms. Crusey is listed as a Ward 6 resident and is the founder and chief executive officer of Allies for Educational Equity, a group started in 2017.  Before coming into this role, according to resume accompanying her nomination, she was a senior advisor to the United States Department of Education for about a year as an appointee of President Obama.  Before joining the Department of Education she was a senior advisor to Democrats for Education Reform.  She was also once a teacher through Teach for America.

Ms. Crusey received a Bachelor of Arts in Government and History from Claremont McKenna College and a Masters in Public Policy from the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy.

On September 28, 2018, her nomination was withdrawn by the Mayor.  No explanations are provided for the rescinding of these candidates for the PCSB.

Paul Kihn’s vision for D.C.’s traditional public schools

Courtesy of WAMU’s Jenny Abamu, I read with interest an article appearing in Education Week by Paul Kihn, the gentleman D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced yesterday she has nominated to be her next Deputy Mayor for Education. In the piece, Mr. Kihn describes his vision for the new urban school district, which he refers to as 2.0 districts, coexisting with charter schools. He states:

“To accomplish the change to 2.0, district leaders will need to manage well and meet high standards, particularly as the Every Student Succeeds Act sustains a federal focus on equity and promotes more innovative, local control. District leaders will need to work hard to shift suspicious, beleaguered cultures and will need the courage to stop acting as if teachers were inconvenient guests (as opposed to MVPs on the team). They need to stop wondering how to “engage” the community and start ceding some decisionmaking rights to parents. Many have already started down this path, including leaders in Denver, Philadelphia, and Washington. Each of these cities is an imperfect example, but their leaders have acknowledged that the monopoly is over and the time for reinvention is now. The district is dead. Long live the district.”

Have leaders in Washington D.C. really “acknowledged that the monopoly is over?” Not by a long shot. If this were the reality, we would see much different policy decisions by the Mayor and City Council. First of all, and most importantly, our elected representatives would turn over to charters for their immediate use the over one million square feet of surplus building capacity they are illegally holding. Second, these individuals would treat charter school facilities on an equal basis to those of DCPS, providing the same capital improvement dollars to which traditional schools have access. Next, they would make services available to charters, such as building maintenance, legal representation, bookkeeping, and information technology that are provided for free to the regular institutions.

In fairness, charters may not want the D.C. government so intertwined in their business. There is a simple solution to this problem: end once and forever the funding inequity that Friends of Choice in Urban Schools has been desperately trying to fix that provides students of DCPS $1,600 to $2,600 a child per year more than charters receive.

If there was no monopoly, then there would be one other major change in the way public education is being conducted in the nation’s capital. The many DCPS schools that are failing our children, particularly the ones that house the most at-risk kids, those children living in poverty whose lives are on a trajectory of failure, would be immediately closed. Just like the Tier 3 charters that have been shuttered over the years, they would be turned over to operators that specialize in helping educate scholars that others find impossible to teach.

Welcome to Washington, D.C., Mr. Kihn. There is much work to be done and we will be watching.

D.C. SCORES’ One Night One Goal Gala

I was on the telephone recently with my hero Keith Gordon, the president and chief executive officer of Fight for Children.  We were discussing his organization’s updated strategic plan which centers on “providing at-risk children in Washington, DC with access to high quality youth sports opportunities.”  He explained to me that as a result of  kids being engaged in strong athletic programs they are active, develop socially and emotionally, perform better academically in school, and are prepared for future success.  When I asked Mr. Gordon to provide me with an example of a non-profit in the city that is now doing this well he pointed to D.C. SCORES.

A few weeks after our conversation an invitation arrived for the One Night One Goal Gala being held by D.C. SCORES on October 4th from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Audi Field.  For those of you, like me, who are not familiar with this group, D.C. SCORES runs a public soccer league in the nation’s capital for elementary and middle school students in the fall and spring.  The sports program incorporates poetry, in which students learn to write and perform and which culminates in a Poetry Slam, and a 12-week service learning project aimed at improving the local community.  From information on its website I can see that many of the coaches, who come primarily from the schools involved in the soccer teams, become mentors to the participating children.

Begun in 1994, it now reaches 12 cities in the United States in Canada through its affiliate America SCORES.

Here is how D.C. SCORES describes the upcoming celebration:

“Guests attending One Night One Goal will mingle in Audi Field’s EagleBank Club and VIP suites, take photos on the bench, and even tour the team’s locker room.  The auction will feature additional unique experiences, including a lease for an Audi R8, a broadcast booth visit with Dave Johnson (who will also host the auction), a gallery tour and original painting by D.C. United Coach Ben Olsen, an opportunity to be a producer and featured in an upcoming soccer movie, an owner’s box game-day experience with D.C. United owner Jason Levien, and more.  The event will be deeply interactive, with entertainment including contests, photo booths, a DJ, performances from DC SCORES’ poet-athletes, FIFA games with D.C. United stars, and more.  DC SCORES Executive Director Bethany Rubin Henderson said, “DC SCORES is all about fun.  We don’t do boring buttoned-up galas.  This event will bring together the District to party and enjoy Audi Field, while benefitting our 3,000 poet-athletes – but most of all, it will be fun!”

A couple of other details about this evening caught my attention.  Food and drink will be offered by Chef Jose Andres’ ThinkFoodGroup.  In addition, on the host committee is another of my heroes, Katherine Bradley, the founding chair of CityBridge Education.

It appears like this will be a spectacular evening at the brand-new home of D.C. United.

 

 

D.C. Council moves to restrict Mayoral control of traditional public schools

In the aftermath of the multiple scandals that have plagued DCPS, I predicted that Mayoral control of public schools in the nation’s capital would be weakened. I strongly believe that at this point in our local history of public school reform this is the right path to take. Whenever there is one person that selects the Deputy Mayor for Education, the State Superintendent of Education, and Chancellor, politics is going to categorize the behavior of these offices. The explanation for this phenomenon is straightforward. The Mayor is dependent upon votes to maintain her position so there will necessarily be politics involved in carrying out tasks that should be politics-free. People always act according to their nature.

Yesterday, Education Committee Chairman David Grosso introduced legislation at the D.C. Council that would increase the term of the State Superintendent of Education from four years to six years. The bill also would permit the State Superintendent to be removed only for cause and would allow this individual to fill positions under his or her authority instead of having the Mayor make these decisions. According to the Washington Post’s Perry Stein, Mr. Grosso commented about his proposed legislation, “I have looked for every angle I can to try and remove politics from education policies in the city, and this is one more step toward making that happen.”

Also on Tuesday, Councilmember Mary Cheh brought forth an act that would have the State Superintendent named by the Board of Education. She remarked, according again to Ms. Stein, “In the scheme of things, I am very concerned about concentrating all power in single hands.”

Exactly right. I would go even further. My recommendation is to allow the Mayor to appoint members to a board similar to the DC Charter School Board. Then I would have the State Superintendent of Education and the Chancellor report to this body. The Deputy Mayor for Education would have a seat at the table and represent the city’s leader in policy matters before the panel.

Mayor Bowser is naturally against the moves by Mr. Grosso and Ms. Cheh. In yesterday’s article by Ms. Stein about the actions by the councilmembers, the Interim Deputy Mayor for Education Ahnna Smith asserted, “The students of the District of Columbia can ill afford misguided education legislation that moves our city backwards more than a decade and undermines the hard work of our teachers, administrators and staff.” True, but what we really cannot afford as a community is cheating when it comes to students meeting high school graduation requirements, an acceptance of residency fraud, and preferred placement for the children of the Chancellor.

It is time to take a drastically different approach.

Closure of Sustainable Futures PCS drives D.C. charter board to alter procedures around new school openings

At last evening’s monthly meeting of the DC Public Charter School Board deputy director Naomi Rubin DeVeaux delivered a heartfelt report on changes in procedures the organization is considering in the aftermath of Sustainable Futures PCS’s decision to relinquish its charter after only one year of operation.  The alternative high school charter was approved in 2016 and had an enrollment of approximately 46 students.  It shuttered its doors last June.  The ideas obviously came to the board after much thought as Scott Pearson, PCSB’s executive director, stated that there has been “a lot of soul searching, examination, and self-reflection,” that has been going among the staff regarding the closure.  It was clear that the board is viewing this event as a failure and is taking responsibility, perhaps overly so, for the negative outcome.  You can view the presentation here.

Ms. DeVeaux explained that once a new school is approved there are almost always conditions placed on the charter that need to be fulfilled before it is allowed to open.  She revealed that some of these are basic, such as securing a facility and the need to incorporate as a 501(c)(3).  In other cases, Ms. DeVeaux detailed, there are changes to the curriculum or the educational plan for special education students that are required due to board concerns.  In these instances, sometimes schools will negotiate over the final form of these changes and the implementation deadlines.  While in the past the staff has made decisions on their own as to whether to accept, for instance, a delay in meeting the new requirements, the deputy director opined that these modifications should probably go back to the board for approval.  In the case of Sustainable Futures, Ms. DeVeaux recalled that almost all the dates around meeting conditions slipped.

The PCSB deputy director also observed that the planning year, the time between approval to open by the board and the first day of school, is tough for new schools because there is so much that has to be accomplished.  Therefore, the charter board is going to change its calendar to move up the application process.  While new submissions are now made in March and approved by the board in May, beginning in the year 2020 applications will be due in January with decisions made in March.  Ms. DeVeaux remarked that this step will help significantly with schools being ready for common lottery applications in November.

Another modification that the board is considering is around the founding members.  In a new school’s application key individuals are identified.  Ms. DeVeaux opined that there has to be some assurance that this group will be in place when the school opens.  She feels that if there is significant turnover of key personnel then the new body should be approved by the board.  The PCSB deputy director explained that in the case of Sustainable Futures, only the original board chair and founder remained.  Moreover, while the PCSB staff meets with key individuals of a new school about once a month before the charter opens, Ms. DeVeaux said that the new charter’s board should be included in these sessions at least on a quarterly basis.

Finally, Ms. DeVeaux believes that the PCSB should be much more active in setting new charters’ enrollment levels.  She revealed that many have lofty targets for its initial year of teaching and she wants the board to restrict this number in case the schools run into difficulties.  She added that she was glad that this is exactly what transpired in the case of Sustainable Futures, which limited the number of students impacted by the school’s decision to close.

All of these recommendations appear to make logical sense and are obviously coming from people who care exceedingly deeply about the scholars under their care.